The Rolling Stones lead guitarist, the mercurial Major of Mayhem, the unstoppable force, AKA Keith Richards has managed to avoid death many times. Whether it’s from his insane consumption of narcotics over the years, his brushes with high-speed mortality or indeed when he tried to snort his Father’s ashes, it’s safe to say there was one time which was more shocking than all of the others put together.
On December 3rd back in 1965, The Rolling Stones were performing to 5,000 wild fans at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, California, Keith would have his closest call with death. While performing the Stones track ‘The Last Time’, an ironic choice which isn’t lost on anyone, Richards’ guitar touched his microphone stand and a blast erupted from the axe – Richards dropped to the ground unconscious.
The crowd became worried that Richards had been shot, a notion which was shared with promoter Jeff Hughson. HuffPo reported (and brought to our attention by Rolling Stone & Ultimate Classic Rock) that attendee and writer Mick Martin reported “I was right there in the front row, in front of Keith, I saw the blue light. I literally saw Keith fly into the air backward. I thought he was dead. I was horrified. We all were. Silence fell over the crowd. They carried him out with oxygen tubes, and he was semiconscious. I patted him on the shoulders and said, ‘I hope you’re going to be okay.'”
Luckily, Richards had not been shot. But he had been quite badly electrocuted from a violent electrical surge from the mic. Keef was dutifully carried off stage and out of the venue with oxygen tubes emanating from his nose and mouth, he was quickly rushed to the nearest hospital.
As with every non-sensical occurrence that has ever happened to Keith Richards in his life he was alive enough to see the funny side. The guitarist later laughed that he recalled hearing a doctor in the hospital say, “Well, they either wake up or they don’t.”
While reports of Richards’ shoes’ suede soles providing the only reason he wasn’t killed instantly fly around the most notable moment of this story happened the next night. Richards, without so much as a shudder, took to the stage and performed as effortlessly and brilliantly as he always did.